Stream of Consciousness: Modern Psychological Novel

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      In the modern fiction, the key point of interest lies in the dark places of Psychology. Psychology is the science of mental life, both of the phenomenon and their conditions. The phenomenon or such things are concerned with feelings, desires, cognitions, reasonings and decisions of the mind. Hence, the stream of consciousness emerges out of psychology. In. this genre of the novel, let us call it the stream of things, of consciousness or subjective life; the depth and complexity of human consciousness is presented as faithfully as possible. Hence, the story or plot may crumble; ruin might seize upon the characters. It has been called the stream of consciousness novel, a novel of the silent or an internal monologue. It is a modern analytic novel, catching the very atmosphere of the mind. The modern novelists have turned fiction away from external to internal reality. We may elaborate this idea that the novel of stream of consciousness is a journey of exploration into the realms of feelings and sensations. Modem novelists have discarded the traditional story. In the novel, story is involved with conscious or unconscious presentation of man's experience of life. Hence, there is no falsification of facts. The new psychology has shifted the goal of the novelist. There is no adoration of a tale by attaching a moral tag to the story.

      In 'stream of consciousness' novel the aim is to get closer to life. Whereas in traditional novel, there was a flatness but, in stream of consciousness novels, the novelist is out to catch the psychological moment which leads to many interesting elements.

Human Consciousness and Association of Ideas

      "Stream of consciousness" novel aims generally to expose man's inner recesses of mind. The novelist mainly exposes passive states of the mind of characters, which have repercussions on his actions and situation. The traditional novel is quite reverse; it ignores most of what goes on within the human consciousness in order to elucidate a definite course of external action. The new novel presents human consciousness which shapes the actions and reactions and explores the strange limbo where experience, once conscious' fades into unconsciousness. Hence the stream of consciousness fiction does not present a coherent and logical pattern of life. It broke away from the tradition of revealing characters and their thought, without any regard to logical argument or narrative sequence. It distances itself from the traditional style of revealing characteristics systematically. Thus we do not get any shape itself into the story. Stream of consciousness technique is a process, not a specific state of mind. We do not arbitrarily formalize or lay emphasis on the superficial traits of personality, external idiosyncrasies and humor. Ben Jonson's humours have evaporated in the 20th century; the new chapter is mainly concerned with uncircumscribed ones like those of Hamlet; stress on capturing the flux of consciousness linked with subconsciousness. To sum up, in modern fiction there is richness and certainty of psychic life.

Technique of Stream of Consciousness Novels

      The novelist uses a different technique in stream of consciousness novels. It is, directly or indirectly, an interior monologue and omniscient description. It is a prose soliloquy which is handled very skillfully by the novelist who is capable of carrying various devices, strategies, symbols and wonderful craftsmanship to discern all the associated ideas. In the direct interior monologue, the writer completely detaches himself and offers no guidance or comments. Flaubert well said that "the author ought to be in his work like God in His creation, invisible and powerful. Let him be felt everywhere but seen nowhere." He should not state but render, not narrate what is going on, but present it in its flow. In the indirect interior monologue the oinniscierit author presents unspoken material as if it had emerged directly from the character's consciousness. He does it with the help of commentary and description. The soliloquies and omniscient description are used effectively in this kind of novel. Because 'stream of consciousness' presents the flux of consciousness, it lacks form, coherence and logical sequences. Therefore, it seems essential to impose order; form on psychic contents and this requires much careful attention and organization, rigid artistic control of complex material; and to impose a formal pattern, the writers have to rely on the unities, musical structure, cyclic schemes and symbolism.

Space and Time in 'Stream of Consciousness' Novels

      An important characteristic of psychological fiction is its freedom from rigid notions of time and space. There is no chronological sequence of events; past, present and future coalesce. The stream of consciousness technique is a means to escape from the tyranny of time and dimension. Retrospect and anticipation constitute the very essence of consciousness at any specific time. The past and future impinge upon the present conditions and situations. The present gets the vision of the past and future. All these reminiscences occur in an illogical pattern, thus they cannot be confined within the boundary of time and place. Now, we give the example of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The plot construction is based on an individual's memory. It is related to a woman who walks through a London street. She is making preparations for a party in the afternoon. With a sense of nostalgia, she thinks of her life at Bouton twenty years ago and remembers Peter Walsh, whet loved her. Time, montage and free association of ideas and images condition the flow of her egomaniac consciousness in which the past, present and future coalesce. Then we move in space from the consciousness of Clarrisa Dalloway to that of the enchanting influences of the Tenth Episode in Ulysses. He mentions about eighteen unrelated scenes taking place in various parts of Dublin at the same time.

      Hence we may sum up this freedom from space and time by disregarding the selfish reality of life and stressing upon the time in which clock is artificial but mental time is natural. Thus life is constituted by the processes of the mind. The inside object is presented by intuition and a seemingly irrational process rather than surveying the ideas from outside. There is a flux of interpenetrated elements, unceasable by the intellect. It is called 'anti mechanical mode of thinking.' All these pasts and presents are concentrated now.


      Several critics stand in opposition to 'stream of consciousness' technique of the novel and made several severe attacks on it. Wells hates this novel because of the "copious emptiness". Herbert Read detests its 'terrible fluidity' and, in the works of Joyce and Proust, the disintegration of form and structure. J. W. Beach has condemned this technique by showing its applicability to only neurotics. But inspite of these criticisms, it can not be disputed that this kind of novel has discovered a new realm of experience and exposed the unimaginable depths and fluidity of human consciousness. It is a new province in the history of the novel that reveals the deepest recesses of mind with remarkable artistic skill.

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